Wednesday, March 4, 2009

How do we begin to change our ways?

Dickcissel photo with the generous permission of ©Timothy P. Jones. Check out his website.

Brett Quiring, a young prairie birder, sent me some thoughts upon finishing Grass, Sky, Song. He brings up some important questions in his response and I thought other readers might benefit from considering them. I don't pretend to have all the answers to the big questions of whether we can and how me might transform our relationship to nature, but I believe that we still have a chance to find the answers if we listen to one another and join in this important conversation. Have a look and send your thoughts either as a comment or in an email ( Brett's submission follows:

"I saw your new book on the weekend. I picked it up and had a chance to read
it. I enjoyed it quite a lot. Reading the book drove home to me the rarity
of some these grasslands birds. I have only been birding seriously for
about two years and in that time my Saskatchewan List numbers almost 200
species. Seeing that I have seen a good number of Saskatchewan birds I was
surprised by the number of birds that you wrote about that were not on that
list. I have never seen either Longspur, Lark Bunting, Burrowing Owl,
Loggerhead Shrike, Upland Sandpiper or a Baird's Sparrow. These are all
birds that someone in my position would have encountered easily only several
decades ago. I guess I should probably make a point of going out a trying
to find some of these birds this year.

I confess that most of the time, protection of the environment always seems
like such a futile action, no matter how important it is. I find it so hard
to even contemplate how to begin to help. The problem seems so large and
the opponents so entrenched. As a historian, I guess I find it difficult to
believe that people will fundamentally change their lifestyle unless they
have no other choice. So often in the past, societies have driven
themselves right into the wall rather than change course (Jared Diamond's
book Collapse has many good examples). I am afraid we will do the same.
However, no matter how pessimistic I get about the issue, I do believe
nothing is set in stone. Maybe after all best way to cure death by a 1000
cuts is with a 1000 small bandaids.

Like yourself, I cannot help but truly admire those that seem to
effortlessly work away. Their collective work has accomplished tangible
results, the Whopping Crane has survived, many raptors are more numerous
these days. I can't help but feel pleased each winter when I see Ravens
soaring along side the road, and thinking that maybe things are getting
better. In many ways I feel it is important to keep on the fight solely for
these people that have given so much time and effort to protecting the world
around us.

Finally, reading your book I am once again amazed that birds or any other
animal has been able to survive us at all. It is staggering to think of all
the raptors that DDT other pesticides, not to mention human hunting, have
killed, yet they still grace our sky in surprising numbers. Although it
really makes you think just how many birds were around before we got here.
It must have been amazing.

Thanks for taking the time to write this book, and new blog."

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